Larry D. Horricks
Leah Greenblatt
March 04, 2015 AT 10:05 PM EST


Current Status
In Season

We gave it an C

Ah, well. All the best actors eventually get their Ishtar, right? Even as Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence spent the past two years basking in the warm glow of box office glory and gold statuettes, their lumpy little celluloid love child Serena lurked in studio purgatory, waiting to bring shame upon the house of Silver Linings. Despite the gleeful schadenfreude of early press reports, the movie itself—a Depression-era romance set in a North Carolina lumber camp—isn’t unwatchable; it’s just not very good. Danish director Susanne Bier (2011’s Oscar-winning In a Better World) aims for classic Hollywood melodrama but ends up with the wrong kind of vintage: The characters are stock, the dialogue is dusty, and every plot point comes clomping around the bend. (It’s based on Ron Rash’s best-seller, though it feels more like an awkward stew of Nicholas Sparks and Cormac McCarthy.) Cooper, as timber baron George Pemberton, seems oddly modern in a period piece, as if he wandered in accidentally from a Venice Beach beer run; and Lawrence, as the titular tragic beauty, starts out as “a pistol” (George’s words) but quickly gets railroaded into mugging like a telenovela Lady Macbeth. Compared with the grim violence in the script, Serena’s death-by-VOD should be pretty painless. C

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